The 17th annual Stars and Stripes Invitational gymnastics tournament is back.

The four-day tournament is expected to be the largest-ever hosted. 1,800 athletes from across the country will compete at the Bayfront Convention Center this weekend.

This year's proceeds will benefit the Erie-based Fallen Soldiers Picnic Fund.

Tournament has participation grow steadily since its founding in 2001.

"Over the years, it's just grown and grown and grown in popularity until now," said Doug Pershun, meet director. "We're the largest in Pennsylvania, certainly one of the largest in the region and one of the largest in the United States, but it's just snowballed every year. It's gotten a little bigger. We're starting to turn away teams since we just don't. We can't really get much bigger than this."

For some gymnasts, the atmosphere is unlike anything they have experienced before.

"It's like a little bit scary to go out and show all of my routines," said Tahleah Warren, gymnast.

"I'm kinda scared, but i'm gonna enjoy it, too," said Cameron Fyke, gymnast. "It's really fun."

The main event is Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

Admission is free to all members of the military and police, as well as fire and rescue workers.

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